Elvis Costello may not be an angry young man anymore, but he isn’t ready to be Tony Bennett either. “For reasons I still cannot understand, I played Monte Carlo on my birthday,” Costello, 48, says of the Aug. 25 gig. “It was black tie. Even my roadies had to be lent jackets. I think a lot of people who had come off the yachts were horrified. I don’t know what they thought they were going to hear, but it wasn’t what we were playing.”
American fans, though, know what to expect on his just-launched 30-city U.S. tour to promote his latest disc, When I Was Cruel. It’s a raucous return to form after such departures as Costello’s sophisto-pop collaboration with Burt Bacharach. “It is essential to follow what you feel strongest about,” explains Costello of his musical wanderings, “rather than feel you are a brand.”
Costello—married for 16 years to former Pogues bassist Cait O’Riordan—takes that road-less-traveled approach to leisure as well. “We [vacationed] in the sub-Antarctic last year, and this year we’re going to round Antarctica in an icebreaker,” says Costello. “It’s rugged seas down there, but it’s great. It’s a remarkable thing to lie on a black volcanic sand beach surrounded by 70,000 king penguins.” Ah, 70,000 tuxedos, and no jacket required.